Bread Salad

There used to be a great restaurant in the Capital Hill area of Seattle that was mediterranean, El Greco. It was there that I was first introduced to bread salad, or panzanella as it’s also known as. I was such a big fan that I have since recreated it at home all the time. It’s pretty simple but one of the keys to this is to toast the bread first, then oil it and rub it with cloves of garlic. WARNING! This has a lot of garlic in it. But you can always cut it back. This recipe also uses a couple of what I consider essential kitchen items. First a really good knife designed for veggies, especially tomatoes. I love my Wusthof Classic Wave, Black. Unlike a flat edged knife, this one won’t “tear” your tomatoes. The other is a chopper. I’m not a big fan of devices that only have 1 purpose but this is an exception. It does a much better job than I can mincing garlic. I have a Cuisinart Stainless Steel Chopper, which is pretty inexpensive. Again you can always modify the amounts in this for the most part to suit your taste. Enjoy!

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Bread Salad

  • 4 slices of good bread, cute 1 inch thick
  • 12 oz cherry tomatoes (or similar), quartered or halved
  • 1 bunch of basil, chiffonade*
  • 1 bulb garlic, keep about 4 of the largest cloves whole and mince the rest
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions

In an oven set to broil and toast each side of the bread until golden brown. While still warm brush each side with 1/4 cup olive oil and then brush each side with the large, intact cloves of garlic.

In a large bowl add the quartered or halved tomatoes, minced garlic and basil. *So what does chiffonade mean? Basically take the basil leaves, roll them up like a cigar and cut thin slices. Mix together the remaining oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper; I just use a jar to do this. Pour into the bowl.

Cut the bread into cubes, roughly the same size as the tomatoes. Add them and toss, just before you service as you don’t want them to get soggy.

Rack of Lamb with Polenta

I’m not sure how I got turned onto lamb. It’s not popular, or at least it seems, in the US. I love it. I go to Lamb Jam when it’s in Seattle, which is every other year, because it’s a great way to try a bunch of different lamb dishes (long with some fantastic wine).

Costco has rack of lamb at the pretty good price and I’ll pick on up every so often. I have heard from some friends that they don’t like lamb because it’s “gamey” but I haven’t found this to be the case with Costco’s lamb at all. The lamb is pretty easy and I love having it with cheesy polenta and pomegranate molasses. Enjoy!

Rack of lamb

Rack of lamb with Herbes de Provence

  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 2 tbsp Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • aluminum foil

Directions

Mix the Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper together. generously rub the herb mixture on the lamb (but not the bone part). Heat a skillet on high heat with the olive oil. Sear the lamb on each side, about 4 minutes.

Wrap the bone ends in the foil, this is so they don’t burn. Put in an oven proof pan (the skillet will do if it’s oven safe). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Cheesy Polenta

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (kosher or sea salt)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sharp cheese (I use Cougar Gold)*

Directions

In a medium pan bring the milk and water to a gentle boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta and keep stirring for about 2-3 minutes. The idea here is to keep it smooth, no one wants lumpy polenta. Turn down the head to medium-low and cover. Check it every 5 minutes or so and give it a stir.

Once it thickens and the polenta is all the way cooked, you can tell if you taste it, take it off the heat. Stir in the butter until completely melted. Add the cheese and stir until it’s melted as well. Add the salt and pepper and serve.

Pomegranate Molasses

  • 4 cups Pom (this is pomegranate juice)
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions

Bring the Pom and sugar to a boil in a medium pan. Once it boils reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture has reduced to about 1 cup. This will take just over an hour and it should have the consistency of thick syrup. Remove from the heat and cool. Once cooled you will want to refrigerate and it’ll last months. When you’re ready to use take it out and bring it to room temp.

Cheese & Sea Salt Focaccia Bread

Unlike most bread recipes focassia doesn’t require a ton of kneeding. This is a pretty basic recipe but I kick it up a notch by adding some cheese and flake sea salt. I like to use Cougar Gold cheese, which is pretty close to Beechers Flagship cheese. You can use whatever cheese you prefer, such as a nice cheddar. Enjoy!

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Focaccia Bread

  • 1 tbsp (1 packet) of dry active yeast
  • 4-5 cups of sifted flour (all purpose or bread, both work)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup hot water (120 degrees)
  • 1 cup hot milk (120 degrees)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + a little extra
  • 1 cup cheese
  • Flake sea salt
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine yeast, 2 cups flour, milk, water and oil. I add a pinch of sugar here to give the yeast a kick. Mix until well combined. Add salt. Set the mixer to a medium speed and start added the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Spray a large bowl with the cooking spray and put the dough in it. Spray the top of the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Put it in a warm spot and let it rise until double. Some where between 1-2 hours.

When it’s down rising dump it out on a large cookie sheet with a lip. Gently stretch it out until it covers and cookie sheet. Don’t worry too much if it pulls away from the sides as long and it doesn’t pull in too much. Let it rise for about 15 minutes. In the meantime turn your oven on and set it to 400 degrees. After rising for 15 minutes gently coat the top with some olive oil and sprinkle with cheese and sea salt. Put it on the lowest rack and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes move it to the center rack, lower the heat to 350 degrees, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

PS. The original focaccia recipe I use to base this recipe on had you baking it on parchment paper. Do Not Do This! What a mess! The dough pulled the paper all different directions and you don’t need it. I’ve since alway make it by placing it directly on the cookie sheet and I have NEVER had it stick.

Gorgonzola Scalloped Potatoes

Growing up with had scalloped potatoes, or gratin potatoes, frequently. Unfortunately most of the time they came out of a box. This recipe is based on one I got out of Cooking Lite but again I’ve “modified” it somewhat. Bumped the amount of gorgonzola up (which btw I prefer Italian Gorgonzola as it’s a little milder and creamier) and added some cheddar cheese as well. I think it’s delicious.

And you may gather based on this post and the previous bbq meatloaf post, with them being back to back, that they were made together. So like the meatloaf, you’re getting a pic of what was left after I dished it up.

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Gorgonzola Scalloped Potatoes

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme*
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 6 oz gorgonzola cheese (cut in chunks or use crumbles)
  • 5 oz cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 lbs of potatoes (more or less)⍡
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

In a heavy bottomed pot, once again I like my Le Creuset Dutch oven, melt the butter. Add in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, the idea here is to cook out the flour flavor. Add in the thyme, stirring quickly; expect it to “pop” as it’s fresh. Now add the milk in a slow and steady stream, stirring constantly. The idea here it to do it smoothly so the flour/butter mix doesn’t lump up. Once all the milk is in cook for another 3 or 4 minutes until it starts to thicken up. Add the gorgonzola and stir until mostly melted. Then add the cheddar and again stir until melted. Take off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste.

Potatoes. OK here you have 2 choices. I like to make this and put it in ramekins, that way I can freeze a couple for future use. Or you can use a larger baking dish and just make 1 large serving. If I go small ramekins then I’ll get the small yellow new potatoes. If I go large, then the larger new potatoes or Yukon potatoes. Either way you’re going to want to spray the dish(s) with non-stick cooking spray. Now slice the potatoes in 1/8 inch slices. Here I have a Cuisinart food processor with a slicing blade. It’s super easy.

Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of your dish, cover with the cheese mixture. Repeat until you’ve used all the potatoes and cheese mixture. Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven, covered with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, for 30 minutes. Remove the covering and bake for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. How will you know? Poke the middle with a sharp knife and if it slides in easily they’re done, if it take some effort they’re not and bake a little longer.

*I tried this recipe with dried thyme and it just doesn’t taste the same to I highly recommend using fresh.

⍡The amount of potatoes will vary depending on the size and number of potatoes. But is it really a bad thing to have extra potatoes on hand? So buy more than you think you’ll need. Another trick I use, I cook up a big batch of potatoes, mash them, and then freeze them in ziplock bags. Makes it super easy to nuke them in the microwave later.